Saturday, June 19, 2010

Mt Meharry - WA's highest peak

Mt Meharry is a relatively recent newcomer to the State 8 - the highest peak in each of Australia's states and territories. Mt Bruce was discovered by Europeans in 1861. Over a hundred years later, in 1967, detailed surveys were done of the area. A surveyor discovered a strange anomaly, 20 kilometres south east of Mt Bruce, the tallest mountain in Western Australia, lay an unnamed somewhat indistinct mountain which was 13 metres taller.

I have set myself the goal of climbing the State 8, although in no particular rush or timeline. So far the only peak I have climbed is Mt Ossa in Tasmania. South Australia's Mt Woodrooffe could arguably be the most logistically difficult, as I need to be Very Best Friends with Vicki, who in turn needs to be Very Best Friends with someone working in Ernabella, or that person being Very Best Friends with someone working there, and that person being Very Best Friends with a local, who is Very Best Friends with an elder. It quite isolated, some 300 kilometres off the bitumen road in a remote Aboriginal community in the state's north, near the border of the Northern Territory. From Uluru one can see Mt Woodroofe.

Mt Meharry is a strange one to access. Although in Karijini National Park, it can only be accessed from roads outside the park. I had read some magazine articles and online forums, it seemed an easy enough climb. Access was via some dirt roads off the Great Northern Highway. As a matter of courtesy, I asked at the national park visitor centre for the best way to access the peak. Contact the nearby pastoral station, they said, as you will need to cross their property. Armed with their phone number, but with limited phone reception, I managed to get their answering machine. At my chosen campsite, a rest area off the Great Northern Highway, I overhead some other campers talking about Mt Meharry. I sidled over to question them. They had already been up there today, having driven their 4WDs to the very top. They had asked no permission, they had followed the trip notes in a 4WD magazine. Having copied some of the details down, I could rest easy confident I was still able to do the climb the following day.

The road leading off the Great Northern Highway is a public road, but it is gated. There are no signs indicating Mt Meharry lies down this road. Hidden in the dry grass is a discarded sign stating that the road was only for access to the pastoral station, yet a sign beyond the gate had been erected by the local council warning of the road's poor condition. Deflating my tyres for dirt road driving, a mine worker pulled up. Yep, no worries, just don't get caught beyond the railway line. Rio Tinto's land, my advice, just don't get caught there.

Some 16 kilometres down this well made dirt road, shared by road trains and mine workers, is a simple sign indicating the track to Mt Meharry, to be tackled by 4WDs only. Carefully following the trip notes I had copied the previous night from the magazine, I proceeded down a series of roads. All 4WD but pretty easy going. I had no intention of driving to the summit, I am a bushwalker, not a four wheel driver. I drove to the base of the mountain, perhaps some two kilometres closer than what a 2WD vehicle could brave. I climbed the steep 4WD track, a 380 metre ascent, but an easy one. 45 minutes to the peak, a cairn marking the summit. Littered with trophies so easily brought here by 4WD, and a logbook buried in the stone cairn. Not much mention of people walking up here, but it was a lovely walk. The 4WD track immediately after the plain gets nasty quick, perhaps only negotiable by raised 4WDs.

Download kml file to view in Google Earth or adapt to use as a navigational aid in a GPS unit

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